The latest installment in Charles Stross’s Merchant Prince series, The Revolution Business, is, well, it’s the latest installment of a series. You know, the one where mild mannered technology reporter Miriam Bekstein discovers that she’s a lost princess from a Clan of drug-dealing warlords from a parallel world, and now she’s a pawn in their multiversal game. Stuff blows up, revolutions advance, world-walkers walk worlds, and Miriam finally gets to the other side of the chessboard. Plus, the previous Vice President of the United States is played up so strongly as a baddie, you have to wonder if Dick Cheney has been blitzkrieging the news lately because he thinks he’s part of the book tour.
Trouble is, the beginning of the book is so dominated by explaining what happened before, so filled with recaps and repetitions, that it takes 150 pages to resolve the cliff-hanger from the previous book. I fear the story threatens to spin out of control with too many characters, in too many worlds. For instance, we spend a lot of time in New Britain, my favorite world, but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the main story. Plot wheels churn out a lot of action and a lot of discussion, all aiming for the inevitable cliffhanger leaving you with the impending doom of something big about to happen.
About to happen. This whole book is setup for the next book.
It doesn’t help that my least favorite thread about missing nukes surfaces and dominates this book. The Clan were wicked enough when we first met them as ruthless schemers with just enough knowledge to make them a threat to themselves and others. It just seems too obvious to make them the ultimate threat by giving them nukes. Call me jaded, but I find it hard to take that part of the story seriously. So I realize we’re probably going to see even more nukes in the next book, but Stross is not GRRM, and it will be the last. I’m looking forward to the Exciting Conclusion.